About Unaccompanied Alien Children's Services


See also: ORR Fact Sheet on Unaccompanied Alien Children's Services

Unaccompanied alien children apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immigration officials are transferred to the care and custody of ORR. The age of these individuals, their separation from parents and relatives, and the hazardous journey they take make unaccompanied alien children especially vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Unaccompanied alien children have multiple, inter-related reasons for undertaking the difficult journey of traveling to the United States, which may include  rejoining family already in the United States, escaping violent communities or abusive family relationships in their home country, or finding work to support their families in the home country.

The majority of unaccompanied alien children are cared for through a network of state licensed ORR-funded care providers, most of which are located close to areas where immigration officials apprehend large numbers of aliens. These care provider facilities are state licensed and must meet ORR requirements to ensure a high level of quality of care. They provide a continuum of care for children, including foster care, group homes, shelter, staff secure, secure, and residential treatment centers. The care providers operate under cooperative agreements and contracts, and provide children with classroom education, health care, socialization/recreation, vocational training, mental health services, family reunification, access to legal services, and case management.


ORR assumes the following responsibilities while caring for unaccompanied alien children entering the United States:

  • Making and implementing placement decisions for the unaccompanied alien children
  • Ensuring that the interests of the child are considered in decisions related to the care and custody of unaccompanied alien children
  • Providing home assessments for certain categories of unaccompanied alien children at risk
  • Conducting follow-up services for certain categories of children
  • Overseeing the infrastructure and personnel of ORR-funded care provider facilities
  • Conducting on-site monitoring visits of ORR-funded care provider facilities and ensuring compliance with ORR national care standards
  • Collecting, analyzing, and reporting statistical information on unaccompanied alien children
  • Providing training to federal, state, and local officials who have substantive contact with unaccompanied alien children
  • Developing procedures for age determinations and conducting these determinations along with DHS
  • Granting specific consent for state court jurisdiction over children
  • Cooperating with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to ensure that sponsors of unaccompanied alien children receive legal orientation presentations
  • Ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that all unaccompanied alien children in custody have access to legal representation or counsel
  • Releasing unaccompanied children to qualified sponsors and family members who are determined to be capable of providing for the child's physical and mental well-being

In order to help unaccompanied alien children access legal representation to the greatest extent possible and practicable, ORR coordinates a legal access project. The legal access project provides children with presentations on their rights, conducts individualized legal screenings, and builds pro bono legal representation capacity. Many unaccompanied alien children meet conditions that make them eligible for legal relief to remain in the United States including, but not limited to asylum; special visas for children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by the parents or guardian; special visas for victims of severe forms of trafficking and other types of crime; or adjustment of status for those who have a legal resident or citizen family member.

In addition to the legal access project, ORR announced a program expansion to support the need for legal services for unaccompanied alien children after their release from the custody of ORR, by awarding additional funds to two existing grantees to hire attorneys to provide legal representation to approximately 2,600 unaccompanied alien children.

Learn more about the UAC program

Contact Information

Office of Refugee Resettlement
Administration for Children and Families
Mary E. Switzer Building
330 C Street, SW
Washington DC 20201
Phone: 202.401.9246
Fax: 202.401.1022

Last Reviewed: June 15, 2018